The end is in sight! Some of us may have persevered relentlessly with our Lenten practices, and others may have struggled a bit here and there (I am part of the latter group). No matter where you fall, though, you can still finish this liturgical season with a renewed vigor as Easter draws near. Instead of bouncing directly from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection, we can instead draw even deeper into the Passion of the Lord in these coming days.
“During Holy Week the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his life on earth, beginning with his messianic entrance into Jerusalem. The Lenten season lasts until the Thursday of this week. The Easter Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, is continued through Good Friday with the celebration of the passion of the Lord and Holy Saturday, reaches its summit in the Easter Vigil, and concludes with Vespers of Easter Sunday.” (Paschalis Sollemnitatis #27)
The Church has so much beauty for us to explore as we draw near to Christ this week, and I encourage you to consider adding a new or different practice to your routine. There are numerous different ways in which we can do this, and here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Attend at least one extra liturgy this week.
Schedules can get busy, and many people are tired after a full day of work or classes. Still, I invite you to make the sacrifice of your time and fatigue to enter more deeply into the liturgical life of the Church this week. Not only will you get to prayerfully participate in celebrations that revolve around Christ’s Passion and death, but you may also discover some practices that you never knew about! For example, I grew up knowing that the Catholic Church uses special oils for various sacraments and occasions: the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and holy chrism. I didn’t really know where these oils came from, but that they would inevitably be somewhere in each Catholic parish I entered. Several years ago, I attended a Chrism Mass, where I witnessed the blessing of these oils. These were then then taken by various representatives to their respective parishes across the diocese. It was a beautiful, eye-opening experience for me, and a great way to pray with the Church during Holy Week!
2. Pray and meditate on Christ’s Passion.
Praying with Scripture is beautiful and very beneficial as we reflect on the hours leading up to Christ’s death. I also recommend other books and meditations that deal with Christ’s suffering and death, like Anne Catherine Emmerich’s reflections, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This book recounts the mystical visions of Anne Catherine on Christ’s sufferings. As private revelation, these visions do not carry the weight of Scripture, but they can be very beneficial in helping a person to meditate on the Passion. In fact, this book helped move Mel Gibson to create the movie The Passion of the Christ.
3. Keep Saturday holy and prayerful.
With egg hunts and celebrations abounding in the days leading up to Easter, it can be tempting to prematurely launch into the celebration as well! However, we can integrate a more prayerful, silent approach to the final hours before Easter begins. As Paschalis Sollemnitatis notes,
“On Holy Saturday the Church is, as it were, at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting.”
On this day, prayerfully unite yourself to Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pondering how she mourned the death and suffering of her son. Cultivate simplicity in your day. Offer up sacrifices for all of the men, women, and children who are preparing to enter the Church that night. After a subdued, prayerful day, attend the Vigil Mass if possible, so that you may joyfully enter the Easter celebrations!
It is important to not get overwhelmed at the immensity of spiritual and liturgical practices of the Church, but to integrate small changes that can help us draw closer to Christ in this time. I hope that you all have a very blessed, peaceful, and prayerful Holy Week!